Junk Drawer Projects for American Girl Dolls

Right before Christmas last year, a coworker very generously gave me three American Girls dolls that had belonged to her when she was a child. I was awestruck by this gift; she was apologetic that they weren’t in “the best shape,” and I asked over and over if she was sure she wanted to part with them, interspersed with a whole bunch of “wow”. It was an awkward exchange, at best. North Dakotans are so weird.

The dolls were beautiful and in excellent condition, considering their age and the obvious love they had endured. All they needed was a good hair treatment just in time to make it under the tree for Christmas.

A cursory internet search informed me that this American Girl thing is an obsession, with websites dedicated solely to American Girl DIY projects, YouTube channels made by mother/daughter teams with thousands of followers, doll clothing that costs more than my grown-up clothing, plus books, movies, and accessories for days. It’s a sight to behold.

And I can’t afford any of it.

Or more accurately, I cannot afford to invest in it without first testing the obsession level on my kids.

So I did what all good Makers do – I improvised.

Scraps of paper, toothpicks, felt pieces, a compact from the dollar store,and a variety of other miscellaneous items, and, VOILA!, I had doll accessories!

Notebooks, Clipboard, and Pencils

Notebooks are made of small bits of scrapbook paper with lined paper inside, held together by a single staple in the middle. Clipboard is a thick piece of chipboard, a sticker, and a tiny binder clip. Pencils are toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies.

Writing Instruments in a Box

This writing set is made of toothpicks cut in half and colored with Sharpies. Box is a simple origami box. It also has a lid to keep the tiny writing instruments contained.

The Lunch Box

My favorite junk creation is this lunch box from an Altoids tin. I covered the outside of the tin with cute tape, then filled the inside with tiny food. Food comes from a set of miniatures and dessert-shaped erasers, food buttons and a delicious-looking sandwich made of make-up foam and felt.

The Doll Computer

This is my kids’ favorite creation – the doll computer. It is a small make-up compact with the make-up removed. I did an image search for a computer screen and keyboard and played with them until I got the size right. The compact is painted black and the computer images are decoupaged; a few stickers complete the look.

I spent exactly $1.08 on the compact at the dollar store because I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my Mary Kay compacts, but the rest of the items were scavenged from around the house.

Here are a couple of other tips I’ve learned to make American Girl more affordable:

  1. Don’t be fussy about the American Girl brand. Joann’s sells 18 inch doll clothes, sometimes on sale for 40-50% off, but there are always coupons if the clothes are not on sale. (Coupons cannot be used on sale items.)
  2. A lonely sock can be fashioned into a no-sew dress for an American Girl doll. If you cut it just right, you can also get a pair of underwear and a matching headband.
  3. Have the kids ask for doll clothes or doll accessories for Christmas or birthdays and let someone else pick up the tab.

Help me think of some low-budget, no budget ideas in the comments below!

 

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Pinterest Success – Kids Version

Our family recently spent a  week-long staycation together. It’s was a great week, full of sleeping in just a little bit later than usual, being outside as much as humanly possible, and, of course, knocking a few of my pins off the list.

I love Pinterest, I love doing arts and crafts with my kids, and I have zero shame when it comes to borrowing creativity from someone else. There, I said it. I’m one of those crazy Pinterest moms that everyone seems to hate so much. But I excel at almost nothing else, so there’s no need to dislike me.

As I was planning the crafts and activities for the kids, I had a realization that it’s somewhat possible that maybe I’m the one who wants to do the crafts and activities and perhaps my children are merely along for the ride.

It also occurred to me, toward the end of the week, that I may have overdone it – my kids started demanding an activity whilst in the middle of an activity. KIDS!!

I put together activities and crafts using things we already had on hand or could acquire cheaply and easily. I love upcycling, especially when I can upcycle something into an artwork or a play thing.

Without further ado (because you know I’ve got a lot of ado in me), here is a tour of our staycation activities:

The Dollar Store Pool Noodle Sprinkler!

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Materials required: pool noodle, drill, duct tape. (A cheap, dollar store pool noodle works just fine.) Drill multiple holes into pool noodle at a variety of angles, then duct tape one end. Shove hose into other end, hang, and watch the kids play.

Shaving Cream Play!

Materials: Shaving cream, mental fortitude, garden hose. Shaving cream is very, very, very messy. We did this activity outdoors on a plastic picnic table and still managed to make a huge mess. I hosed off the kids when they were done playing and decided it counted as a bath.
Materials: Shaving cream, mental fortitude, garden hose. Shaving cream is very, very, very messy. We did this activity outdoors on a plastic picnic table and still managed to make a huge mess. I hosed off the kids when they were done playing and decided it counted as a bath. In the future, I would put the kids in bathing suits beforehand, or do this in the tub.

Baking Soda Rock Treasure Hunt!

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Materials: Baking soda, water, tiny jewels, optional food coloring. Place about 2 cups of baking soda in a bowl and add water slowly until it can be formed into a ball. Mix in small beads or jewels, form into balls, dry overnight. Food coloring can be dripped over finished baking soda balls.
Search for treasure by applying vinegar to baking soda bombs using syringes, spoons,  measuring cups, etc.
Search for treasure by applying vinegar to baking soda bombs using syringes, spoons, measuring cups, etc.
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The kids loved everything about this activity. The surprise of the fizzing, seeing the colors mix and change, playing with the baking soda with their hands, mixing and swirling when it was done fizzing. We did this activity outdoors.

Craft Foam Stamps!

Materials: Craft foam, plastic bottle caps, glue, paint, ball point pen. Cut out small shapes in the craft foam and use a ball point pen to create any patterns or designs on the craft foam. Glue foam to bottle caps. When glue is dry, put a small amount of paint on a paper plate and dip stamps, or apply paint to stamp with a paint brush.
Materials: Craft foam, plastic bottle caps, glue, paint, ball point pen. Cut out small shapes in the craft foam and use a ball point pen to create patterns or designs on the craft foam. Glue foam to bottle caps. When glue is dry, put a small amount of paint on a paper plate and dip stamps, or apply paint to stamp with a paint brush.
We discovered that a very thin layer of paint worked best for stamping. We blotted the stamps on scratch paper before using them for the best result.
We discovered that a very thin layer of paint worked best for stamping. We blotted the stamps on scratch paper before using them for the best result.

Rock Painting!

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Materials: Rocks, paint, paint brushes. I placed a rainbow of soy paints in an empty egg carton and let the kids paint rocks on front steps. The kids loved painting a rock, then digging around for another perfect rock to paint.
Full disclosure: I painted these.
Full disclosure: I painted these.
The beauty of this project is that the rocks stayed outside in the rock bed. I love seeing the little flecks of color in there.
The rocks stayed outside in the rock bed. I love seeing the little flecks of color in there.

Lego Games!

Materials: 6 cups or bowls or a serving dish with 6 sections, dice, Legos. The compartments are labelled 1-6. I had the kids fill each compartment on the tray with a variety of Legos. We took turns rolling the dice and picking a piece from the compartment matching the number on the dice. We rolled the dice for about 30 minutes, then put our creations together. Even our 2 year old was able to play this game. Another variation we tried is having a single building project and each person adding to it with every turn.
Materials: 6 cups or bowls or a serving dish with 6 sections, dice, Legos. The compartments are labelled 1-6. I had the kids fill each compartment on the tray with a variety of Legos. We took turns rolling the dice and picking a piece from the compartment matching the number on the dice. We rolled the dice for about 30 minutes, then put our creations together. Even our 2 year old was able to play this game. Another variation we tried is having a single building project and each person adding to it with every turn.
I love how different every project turned out. We will definitely be keeping this game handy.
I love how different every project turned out. We will definitely be keeping this game handy.

Dying Beans!

Materials: Dry beans (pinto, navy, great northern - our are pinto), food coloring, resealable bags, and paper towels. Place about a cup of bean in each plastic bag, drip in 15 drops of food coloring, seal bag and shake away. Dry on paper towels overnight. Repeat with as many colors as you want!
Materials: Dry beans (pinto, navy, great northern – ours are pinto), food coloring, resealable bags, and paper towels. Place about a cup of beans in a plastic bag, drip in 15 drops of food coloring, seal bag and shake for 30 seconds. Dry beans on paper towels overnight. Repeat with as many colors as you want!
Had to get a rainbow shot before they dug in.
Had to get a rainbow shot before they dug in.
The beans are all mixed together. All three kids enjoyed filling eggs, spooning up beans, filling bowls and other items with beans. They concocted some kind of bean birthday party.
The beans are all mixed together. All three kids enjoyed filling eggs, spooning up beans, filling bowls and other items with beans. They concocted some kind of bean birthday party, too. As long as the beans are kept dry, they will keep indefinitely.

Chalk Paint!

Materials: small, broken pieces of sidewalk chalk, resealable plastic bags, hammer, plastic cups or bowls, paint brushes, rinse bucket. To make the chalk paint, crush chalk with a hammer in a resealable plastic bag. The finer the crushed chalk, the nicer the paint.
Materials: small, broken pieces of sidewalk chalk, resealable plastic bags, hammer, plastic cups or bowls, paint brushes, rinse bucket. To make the chalk paint, crush chalk with a hammer in a resealable plastic bag. The finer the crushed chalk, the nicer the paint.
Place about 1/3 cup of crushed chalk in each cup or bowl.
Place about 1/3 cup of crushed chalk in each cup or bowl.
Fill with about 1 -1 1/2 cups of water. Then paint!
Fill with about 1 -1 1/2 cups of water and stir. Then paint!
The paint goes on thin and somewhat lifeless. The real treat is when it dries. The colors become vibrant!
The paint goes on thin and somewhat lifeless. The real treat is when it dries. The colors become vibrant! Use a rinse bucket to keep the kids from mixing up the colors in the cups.
One of several art pieces made with chalk paint.
One of several art pieces made with chalk paint.
This was my favorite activity we tried, so much so that we did it a couple of times.
This was my favorite activity we tried, so much so that we did it a couple of times.

At the end of the week, we accomplished all of the planned activities and only bought two items at the dollar store to make our fun. I think we can call this Pinterest-inspired week mission accomplished!